Written by: Ron Kelland, MA, MLIS
In June, we featured several buildings that the City of Lethbridge recently designated as Municipal Historic Resources (MHRs). But Lethbridge isn’t the only city that has been actively protecting its heritage resources and listing them on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Over the past few months, the City of Lacombe has designated five places as MHRs and added them to the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
Lacombe has been one of Alberta’s most active communities in protecting its historic places. As an early community in the former Alberta Main Street Program, Lacombe has restored and maintained one of the largest historic downtown cores in the province. As of June 1, 2019, there are six sites in Lacombe designated as Provincial Historic Resources and seven designated as Municipal Historic Resources.
MHRs are structures and other sites that the municipality has deemed to be of significant heritage value to their community. Municipally designated properties also qualify for conservation grants from the Alberta Historic Resources Foundation.
The most recent listed designations by the City of Lacombe are:
Located at 4709 – 49C Avenue in the southern part of Lacombe’s historic downtown, the Fraser-MacDonald Building is a single storey, brick commercial building. It was built in 1920 and features Classical Revival details that characterized many commercial buildings of the period. It has heritage value as an example of Lacombe’s growth as a commercial centre in the inter-war period and for its association with local real estate developers, insurance agents and business partners Jessie Fraser and Allan MacDonald. The Fraser-MacDonald Agency was responsible for the construction of a number of buildings in Lacombe. The Lacombe-MacDonald Building was one of 31 commercial buildings restored in Lacombe under the Alberta Main Street Program between 1987 and 1993.
Kanngiesser Building/Urquhart Block
Located at 4923 – 50 Avenue in the heart of Lacombe’s historic downtown, the Kanngiesser Building/Urquhart Block is a two story, commercial building faced with light coloured cement blocks. The building has heritage value for its style and design and for its association with the development of Lacombe’s commercial development. Built in 1907, the Kanngiesser Building/Urquhart Block exhibits some of the Classical Revival details common to commercial buildings of the era. The buildings also has an unusual polygonal footprint, giving it two nearly identical storefronts, one north-facing and the other on the southeast facing side. It was the first building constructed in Lacombe following a 1906 fire, after which the town had passed zoning bylaws that required the use of stone, brick or cement blocks. The structure was built by developer Andrew Urquhart, who operated a department store from the building from 1907 to 1914. The business and building went through a couple of owners between 1914 and 1954, when it was acquired by John Richard Kanngiesser. It remains in the Kanngieser family today. Since its construction in 1907, the building has been the home of a department store and a store selling general commercial goods, clothing or home effects. The building was also designated by the Government of Alberta as a Provincial Historic Resource in 2007.
Located in Lest We Forget Park adjacent to the Memorial Centre, the Lacombe Cenotaph is a marble sculpture of a soldier mounted atop a decorated granite plinth. Its heritage value is due to it association with the memorialization and commemoration of the First World War, as an example of the work of sculptor Albert J. Hart, as well as being the central element in the Cecil Burgess designed memorial park. Erected in 1924 by the Lest We Forget Club, the cenotaph was intended to be a visible representation of the residents of Lacombe who lost their lives during the First World War. Over time, the cenotaph has come to represent those lost in other conflicts, notably the Second World War, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan. The cenotaph bears the names of Lacombe residents killed in those conflicts as well.
The sculpture was designed and carved by Albert Hart of Calgary, who was commissioned to create a number of similar cenotaphs throughout the province. The cenotaph is the focal point of the Lest We Forget Park, which was designed by University of Alberta Professor of Architecture Cecil Scott Burgess. He was inspired by the City Beautiful Movement and its philosophy of creating green spaces throughout urban areas as a way to ensure a better quality of life for urban dwellers.
The Young Residence is a single-storey bungalow located on a corner lot at 49 Avenue and the C & E Trail just southwest of Lacombe’s downtown. Its heritage value is due to its style and design, being a Colonial –inspired, modern residence. Built in 1948, the Young Residence is representative of modern concepts of residential architecture that became popular in Alberta in the post-war period. Modest homes such as this were relatively quick and efficient to build, making them ideal to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population following the discovery of oil at Leduc in 1947. Their modern, more minimalist design also better met the desires of the Canadian home-buying public, who were looking for simpler and easier-to-maintain homes than those of previous generations, but still spoke to a philosophy of domestic tranquility.
The Michener Residence is a relatively small, two-storey wood frame home located at 5036 – 51 Street, just northwest of Lacombe’s downtown area. It has heritage value as an example of early residential design and it is the oldest known extant building in Lacombe. The original home was built in 1894 as a residence for the minister at Grace Methodist Church, which was located next door. It was built by members of the Methodist congregation. An addition was added in 1918. As the minister’s home located next to the church, the house was an important social centre. In 1899 and 1900, the residence was the home of Methodist minister Edward Michener, who later move to Red Deer and would serve as a Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and as leader of the opposition from 1910 to 1917. Edward’s son, Roland, was born in the home in April 1900. Roland Michener would serve as Speaker of the House of Commons from 1957 to 1962 and as Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974. Michener House was also designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1977. It is currently the home of the Lacombe & District Historical Society.